[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Tue Jan 15 05:10:42 CET 2013

I don't see a knitting groups lack of jive with a hackerspace
community as being a gender bias.

For instance, at Noisebridge a continued point of protest I've heard
before is the people who come in solely to use the kitchen.

If a sub group within the community is not really jiving with the
greater community it's really not necessarily a bias built upon
gender.  it sounds like ( from my reading ) that it was more of a lack
of shared interests.

And that can be problematic in either direction.  If I were to show up
with 3 of my good friends ( male or female ) at a knitting circle and
starting soldering arduinos into the scarves / sweaters / awesome
socks / I was knitting there's a good chance that over time I would
wear out my welcome with the rest of the knitting circle.

While I am all for identifying areas where people can be made to feel
more comfortable, I am also all for not trying to fit square blocks
into round holes.  If two communities don't share common interests,
they will likely not share space well.  Trying to change that seems a
futile effort to me.

And, while there are those that do transcend multiple groups, that
does not mean that those groups will be able to jive.

Curious why you thought it was related to the gender of the knitting
group members over the potential lack of shared interests?

On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 10:55 PM, Lisha Sterling <lishevita at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM, Nathaniel Bezanson <myself at telcodata.us>
> wrote:
>> on paper our membership is about 80% male, but if you look at the people
>> who actually show up and participate, it's a lot more even -- roughly 60/40
>> most of the time.
> It sounds like you have a great space there!
> Last year at SpaceCamp, an unconference for hacker and maker spaces run by
> School Factory, we had an informal poll of the founders and facilitators
> there to see what the gender makeup was. Despite the fact that there were
> about 30% women at the conference, it turned out that the membership of
> hackerspaces tended to run closer to 90/10 with a few notable exceptions. A
> couple of the women there spoke directly to the fact that they were made to
> feel unwelcome at some hackerspaces even as the hackerspace *said* that they
> were being gender-blind.
> An example that I can think of off the top of my head is how at one mid-west
> hackerspace, a woman started a knitting group that brought in a lot of other
> women. Some of those women became involved in other areas of the hacker
> space, but not all of them did. However, *some* of the men in the
> hackerspace continually berated and badmouthed the knitting group,
> complaining that it was taking up space that should have been used for
> "real" hacking like woodwork, metalwork, programming and electronics. The
> knitting group wasn't forced to stop, but the discomfort from the way that
> they were treated meant that fewer women wanted to come, not only to the
> knitting group, but to other functions as well. The knitting group died, and
> the hackerspace was left with only a couple of female members (one of which
> went on to become a facilitator at another hackerspace).
> I agree that the way to get future women into the hackerspaces is to get
> their parents in today. We all need role models. Are parents are our first
> role models. The other adults in the spaces we frequent as a child (school,
> scouts, daycare, hackerspace, etc) are very important as well.
> There is another issue that needs to be addressed, and that is making sure
> that your hackerspace is an open and welcoming place to all: women, gays,
> transgendered people, people of different faiths, or colors, or shapes, or
> sizes...
> There is a lot of work going on in this area at a lot of hackerspaces and
> that is really fantastic. Be aware, though, that you might not be aware of
> the issues facing any minority in your space. Sometimes you can find out by
> asking. Sometimes you can't. An of course, if you don't know that there is a
> problem, it's pretty much impossible to fix it. But when someone does speak
> up, hear them out and see what can be done.
> As for women not wanting to talk to the press about being a woman in a
> hackerspace, there may be several reasons for that. 1) It's really awesome
> at your space and they don't see a point. In which case you should maybe
> encourage them to speak to the press and say exactly that, since it will
> help women who feel timid about joining *any* hackerspace more likely to
> show up. 2) They are sick of saying the same things over and over to the
> press, being misrepresented and painted as either a victim or a hero or some
> other archetype rather than as a person who hangs out at a hackerspace. 3)
> They really don't like anything that smacks of personal advertising. "Get my
> name in the paper? Ick! No thank you!!" 4-infinity) I can't possibly know
> all the other reasons...
> - Lisha
> --
> http://www.alwayssababa.com/
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